Can you carry your weight

I still am awed each Christmas that Christ has come to save us. Then challenged to know that our hearts will remain restless until we embrace the crucified life, where we begin our journey through life and faith moving ever and always towards the cross. Where hearts burn with the passion of Jesus Christ who launches us like arrows, ceaselessly seeking the target God has set before us. Yes, Christ is enough for me, the cross before and the world behind. 

Our story begins where Jesus has brought the disciples to a safe landing, north of Tiberius, in the land of Gennesaret, another name for the Sea of Galilee. He calmed the stormy seas of great waves rising and falling in a battery of tests, Christ Jesus has crossed over the gunnel, to enter the boat. It could only be exclaimed as a miraculous and marvelous moment. As the disciples immediately… John 6:21~Then they were willing to take him into the boat and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. (NIV) Miles from where they need to be strained and tested yet Jesus Christ found them and immediately they arrived. Coming out of a test often causes us to rethink and reassess.

Consider the disciples who disembarked the skiff leaving the battery of test in their wake, they arrive at their Galilean seaside destination with Jesus Christ. Most certainly their minds were spinning trying to process the unfolding events, like a mystery this seaside caper unfurls. Perhaps they titled it The Lost Art of Rowing. It is not often the abridged version is no shorter or longer than the unabridged, for Christ Jesus navigated them 3.5 miles in what is only described as, immediately. Allow the Good Dr. Luke to set the stage for us. Luke 5:1~One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God.

When the people of the region recognize this as Jesus, they bring Him all their sick. Picked up in Matthew 14:35-36~…they sent around to all that region and brought him all who were sick and implored him they might only touch the fringe of his garment and as many as touched it were made well. (ESV) When was the last time you pressed Jesus, reaching out to just touch the fringe? These were people in need and they touched His (צִיצִת tsiytsith) (Numbers 15:38) the tassels at the corner of His garment with a blue thread, which reminded them of God and His commands. All of the promises of salvation, healing, deliverance there in plain sight, O to touch Jesus Christ. In our pericope today, we find a question. Can you carry your weight? Life, it is so cumbersome, revealing our need of a Savior who can help carry. 

How heavy is your life? Is there a care you need to cast on the Lord who will help you shoulder life’s many burdens? Peter writes in 1 Peter 5:7~Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. (NLT) As our year draws to a close, I want to remind you that Jesus is here with you in the old and will lead you and guide you in the new. Why not take time to consider what the Lord wants you to adjust as you enter into a new year with Him.



Cleansing

When we read the scripture, it reveals the lives of men and women who face some of the same storms of life that we do. Moreover, it appears Jesus will test us over and over again until we pass the test. Here, in the middle, the disciples who have witnessed the immensity of God’s great Son, the Word is spoken and blessing flowing has led them to another test of faith. Where over the gunnels of the ship lay a vast sea violent in its tumult, a storm comes ashore to each heart of Jesus’ disciples and riding atop the big blue, where worry sprays, and this moment could cost them their lives. Into the tossed room, washed, longing for a ringer’s relief. Twelve soaked to the core men have been rinsed and are now spinning out the cycle. When they raise a rye eye to seem that someone, something is approaching them, out walking on the water. 

Miles from shore on a raging sea Matthew 14:25-26~And in the fourth watch of the night…when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. (ESV) Immediately. Nothing could or can be any faster. Matthew 14:27~But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid. (ESV) Matt now records something Mark and John do not. If you have ever prayed a prayer concerning what the Lord’s will is, then you are more like that Salty Sea Dog Pete than you think. Matthew 14:28~ …Lord, if it is you, command me…(ESV) Well, Jesus simply says, Come.

This is not a moment to be wishy-washy and so Pete gets out of the boat. When faith is focused on Jesus Christ we can do as Paul writes in Philippians 4:13~I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (NIV) You might say to me, Pastor, strength isn’t the issue when standing on water. and I’d say to you, that is where you are wrong. Standing on the water is not about hydrodynamics, displacement, gravity, even buoyancy, it is solely faith. Notice how Pete is fine when he is focused on the object of his faith, Jesus. However, when he loses focus, even for a moment, the sea of problems soak him, sinking him in its shifting stormy seas. (Matthew 14:28-29)

Do you know the shortest prayer prayed in the Bible? It is only 3 words long. Perhaps you have prayed it quoting the scripture without even realizing it. When we are in severe trouble, we don’t mince words or lay hold of long eloquence. We get to the brass tax of our great need quick, fast and in a hurry, just like Pete did when he was drifting downward in his problems. Pete cried out in what I can only imagine was a loud voice with great supplication. Matthew 14:30~…Lord, save me. (ESV) In response to this powerful prayer of 3 mere words, again, Jesus Christ immediately reaches out and takes Peter’s hand. 

God always reaches out to us to save us. John 6:44 says the Father 

must draw us, that is His divine hand extended. Why would He do this? Because of His great love for us. I know we like to be hard on Pete, but he showed more faith, then all of the other disciples, who just stayed in the boat. Mark tells us the disciples are astounded and amazed beyond measure. Mark 6:51~Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, (NIV) What I love is how Jesus Christ gets into the boat and everything dies down. That’s the power of Jesus. 

John, who is taking copious notes for his subsequent Gospel will later write in John 6:21~Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. (NIV) Jesus never promises smooth sailing, but He does promise us a safe landing. Like He did for Ole Mo and the Israelites at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-31). When we get out of God’s will. He may send a storm to get us back on His course, as He did in Jonah’s life. (Jonah 1:4-2:10) Jesus came to rescue us from our sins, our problems, and even life’s storms. 

Listen, there will be some very frightening storms in our lives. But, the same hand that reached out to Pete will reach out to you and me in the midst of the most violent storms. Jesus will come, out walking atop the waves afflicting us. Therefore, we can have peace in the midst of life’s storms. Just by knowing that we are the object of His great love. Today, I remind us, of the words that God shared with Joshua. Ole Mo has died and Joshua is facing some pretty rough looking seas. 7 times in 2 chapter, God says these words Joshua 1:9~…Only be strong and very courageous…(ESV) Understand, God does not change (Malachi 3:6). 

Today, only be strong and courageous. With eyes fixed on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith and knowing the same God who was with Ole Mo, Joshua, and Pete, will be with you, to see you through every life problem. God is Bigger than all we face. Job 26:14~these are but the outer fringe of his works…Who then can understand the thunder of his power? (NIV) Prevailing over problems means we must bathe problems in prayer as we believe in the presence and power of Jesus.



Jesus

Some of you are facing problems today and I want you to believe in Jesus. (Matthew 14:24-33) I’m not just purposing that we believe in Jesus and that everything is going to work out, though that is a huge part, we must believe in the presence and power of Jesus. He’s allowed His disciples not only to see a miraculous feeding of 5,000, in the face of great grief but also allowed participation. There is nothing like putting our hands to work with the Gospel. God loves enlisting us to work alongside of Him. Like a father who teaches us by doing, He hands us a tool and says let’s do this, together. Christ Jesus looks at His disciples and says to them, now its time to apply what you have learned. Matthew 14:24~but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. (ESV) Matthew 14:25~And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. (ESV) 

Rowdy with whitecaps the sea sprayed them each, as waves break and toss the boat about. Because Capernaum and Bethsaida are both on the northern part of the Sea, the disciples would not normally have gone more than a mile from shore. However, the storm has carried them miles out to sea. John 6:19~When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. (NIV) This means they are in the middle of the Sea which is about 7 miles across and about 15 miles long. The disciples are probably, confused. Why did we have to rush away? Frustrated that Jesus has sent them away after such a great move of the Lord. They were afraid, for how could Jesus know their current plight. Oftentimes the worst part of a storm is thinking that Jesus is not with us. 

In Matthew 8, we read a similar story when Jesus Christ was with the disciples. Witnessing the Word at work in our neighborhood as He spoke: “peace be still.” The disciples were accused of little faith and much fear. (Matthew 8:24-26) The question before us here in Matthew 14 is, Have the disciples grown in their faith from that first storm to this storm? In a very similar manner, that’s what many problems do in our lives. They layer, building up to reveal our deepened spiritual walk. Anyone who builds will tell you that to go up, requires first a firm foundation. The disciples are in a test. Perhaps Christmas came this year and brought a battery of tests. 

Trust in God, who is Jehovah Jireh our provider. (Genesis 22:13) There may have been a health scare from a bad report and we need to be reminded God is Jehovah Rapha our healer. (Jeremiah 30:17, Isaiah 61:1) Though the family isn’t getting along this Christmas, His banner over us is love, for Jehovah Nissi reigns over our home. (Exodus 17:15) In each Advent season, we are reminded that He is Jehovah Tsidkenu, the Lord our righteousness. (Jeremiah 23:5-6) And though the valley of the shadow of death has darkened the door of some, He is Jehovah Raah, the Lord our Shepherd. (Psalm 23) He will not leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6) for He is Jehovah Shammah, the God who is here with us, even in the midst of a test. (Ezekiel 48:35)

In each situation, He is the same God, yesterday, today and forever.